branding, customer service, digital transformation, marketing, management

The expert view: Building an iconic brand through customer experience excellence

The need for digital transformation affects every aspect of a business, and customer experience is no exception. In fact, it is one of the key differentiators in brand strength, as Genesys’s Mark Reinhard told a recent Business Reporter breakfast briefing at London’s Goring Hotel.

His colleague, Richard McCrossan, informed delegates that today’s customers “are fickle and have such high expectations” that becoming an iconic brand is more challenging than ever. He added that 90 per cent of customers see customer experience as the key battleground in building a brand that can stand alongside the Apples and Ferraris of the world.

What does it mean to be iconic?

Some brands are such icons that they have become verbs. Think Google or Hoover. But, said an attendee from the banking sector, this isn’t always desirable. Becoming a verb can be a sign that you have become commoditised, a fate that most businesses want to avoid.

It is possible to become iconic within a niche, a delegate from the legal sector pointed out. He said that certain aspects of his firm were considered iconic. People with specific legal issues would think of his firm first.

Overall, though, those in attendance felt that it has become harder to build an iconic brand. The average lifespan of a company is getting shorter, from an average of 75 years in 1955 to just 15 by 2015. If customer experience truly is the battleground for brands then companies need to act urgently.

The future of customer experience
It is clear to all that the future of customer experience is more technology. Those present all said that they are already working with chat, social media and other channels that did not exist a few years ago. They are also gathering, and attempting to act on, more data than ever. But this is not without its challenges.

One of the biggest of these was moving to a digital service without alienating those customers – often older ones – who prefer to use traditional channels, most often face-to-face. How do you move forwards without compromising existing channels? Moreover, the old channels might need to be maintained indefinitely because the same customer will likely want different channels depending on needs and context.

For those present, mostly senior marketing or customer experience executives, an overarching challenge is getting the entire business on the same page. Business units often compete, all attempting to shout the loudest about their products. This can result in a confusing customer experience, where prospective customers cannot find the service they want or distinguish between two similar products. When teams are operating in silos, how do you get them to co-operate?

Customer experience drives brand status
The trick, attendees agreed, is to get buy-in from the top of the company. In many businesses, C-Suite executives often have a very short-term view. Their typical tenure, one delegate pointed out, is three years, so they focus on making the biggest impact on share price or the bottom line within that period before moving on. Getting them to drive customer experience as a priority for the whole company is vital.

Doing that means making sure they understand that good customer experience will affect the bottom line. “We’re not doing this for fun,” said an attendee from the telecoms sector. “We’re doing this because we’ll lose profit and market share if we don’t.”

A great brand also attracts great employees, added another attendee, which will boost the performance of the whole company.

Customer experience in the digital age
As one delegate put it: “We are drowning in data but lacking in insight.” That complaint rang true with many attendees at the breakfast, who agreed that getting a grip on data was a crucial challenge. Data is vital to understanding the brand experience and the touchpoints that matter so no company can build an iconic brand without mastering its data.

Those attendees who were most advanced in their understanding of data were already matching metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) to broader business KPIs. For those who were behind, the advice was to build confidence by starting small and then expanding their efforts. Doing this demonstrates effectiveness and shows the rest of the business how impactful customer experience can be.

Above all, said Mr Reinhard, summing up, it is crucial to use data intelligently. Many companies, he said, send out marketing materials blindly but if you connect NPS to your marketing activity you might decide to send something different to customers who have just given you a poor score. Reaching out to those people would be more effective than sending your latest marketing material.

Technology has empowered customers like never before but it has empowered brands too. The key to becoming an iconic brand is making the best use of that technology to deliver a truly excellent experience to every customer.

 

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